Sir: Julie Burchill’s piece ‘Born to be famous’ (26 July) was very strong and as, like her, I’m an ex-Labour supporter turned conservative, it echoed my opinions. The performing arts in particular were a great outlet for the untapped talents of what we used to call the working classes. Between the mid-1950s and about 1980, coming from a modest background was no handicap in the arts or (primarily Labour) politics.
Today’s media/political axis is rife with both nepotism and persons who have little comprehension of everyday life. To his credit, David Cameron has at least done some work before joining the two other party leaders, who are the pampered sons of privilege with no experience of the effects of, for example, mass immigration or poor state education.
Front-bench politicians who show concern for our poorer classes tend to be sidelined. Names that come to mind include Michael Gove, Alan Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Anne Cryer and Frank Field. As the Straws, Blairs, Kinnocks et al prepare to parachute their progeny into safe Labour seats, the outlook for the less prosperous classes looks bleak.
Martin J.R. Bright
Paying the price of aid
Sir: James Delingpole is perhaps too sweeping in his criticisms of the overseas aid industry (5 July), but the general thrust of his criticisms is sound. Having run a company in Rwanda for several years, I witnessed the distorting effect that the aid industry has on local economies. At the time, secondary school teachers were paid the equivalent of £50 a month. This may sound paltry but was more than twice the national average income. But the going rate for aid agency and NGO drivers was two to three times as much. Inevitably able graduates with a foreign language sought jobs as drivers with NGOs in preference to teaching. Teachers’ salaries were doubled in 2009 in response, but this simply further increased the pressure on local businesses. Although my company paid generous salaries by local standards, my staff knew they could earn more with an aid agency. In this way aid agencies suck up scarce talent to the detriment of the education system and of local businesses, yet it is education and business that will ultimately allow such countries to develop and escape from aid dependency.
You’ve surrendered, Toby
Sir: Toby Young, in supporting David Cameron’s removal of Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Education (Status Anxiety, 19 July), is clearly not so independently minded as he might hope to portray. What he has done is side with the Guardian readership as opposed to the majority of parents who supported Gove’s reforms and were happy to see him take on and beat the NUT.
Shepton Mallet, Somerset
Sir: The reason why Chatsworth enjoys such ‘cracked affection’ (Food, 26 July) is that the Cavendish family has excelled, over many centuries, in giving superb service to the people of Derbyshire. Those people, it should be noted, have not withheld their gratitude. But if you’re as pompous as Tanya Gold, then being rude about lesser folk is all in a day’s work.
Carry on reshuffling
Sir: There is even more to the bizarre story of Baroness Stowell, the first Lords Leader without a Cabinet seat, and the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster than Charles Moore indicates (Notes, 26 July). The proposed salary top-up from Tory party funds, subsequently abandoned in the face of an outcry in the Lords, was pointless in the first place. Under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975, any payment made to the holder of the office from outside sources leads automatically to a corresponding reduction in the amount provided by Parliament.
Neither that legislation nor any other prevents the Chancellor of the Duchy being paid out of party funds. So there was no legal reason why Mr Cameron should not have stood by his original plan instead of getting her to swap with Mr Letwin, to whom the Privy Seal had been offered. Equally there is no reason why they should not swap back. It would be a pity not to add further to this comedy of political errors.
House of Lords
A fracking nest egg
Sir: Assuming that fracking goes ahead in a significant way in the coming years, should we not put aside a little of the windfall to create a sovereign wealth fund? This appears to have worked well for Norway and Shetland, and I believe would be better than giving cash inducements to the current generation who will in any case benefit from the gas extracted.
We are currently passing on to future generations a financial mess of such magnitude that a small donation from us seems the least we can do. If we don’t, I can imagine my grandchildren being appalled that we could have been so profligate and selfish. We missed one chance with North Sea oil. To miss another would be unforgivable.
The silliest shades
Sir: Following up Mark Mason’s diatribe against excessive use of sunglasses (‘Shades of contempt’, 26 July), was there ever a sillier affectation than parking them on top of the head in dull weather, indoors and after sunset? Further proof, were it needed, that the wearing of shades generally has little to do with protecting the eyes and a lot to do with showing off.
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